4 Ways to Increase Disposable Income

2 years ago when I decided to completely change my career path and begin coaching/advising people on how to handle finances, I did so with the hope of changing people. With the hope of telling and showing people how it’s possible to turn their financial situations around and head down the path towards financial peace.

Quickly did I learn – much to my ignorance – that I couldn’t change people. After spending countless amounts of energy and nights of losing sleep wondering why I couldn’t get through to people, I now fully understand that I simply do not have the power to change anybody.

There are only two people that have it: you and God.

Over my time of coaching hundreds of people, I’ve learned one definitive thing: there are some people that are willing to make the changes necessary and there are some that are not.

If it were easy to manage money, live on less than you make, and build wealth, then everybody would do it. The simple fact is that it isn’t.

Easy button

There is no “simple fix” or “easy” button. The lottery isn’t your answer. The 25,000,000 people a month that google search “give me money” and “help me find money” are going to eventually find themselves in the same place they stand now.


Because they’re looking for the easy way out. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Handling money and winning with finances doesn’t either.

Managing money well and finding financial peace involves a few basic things:

  • Discipline and learning how to say “no!”
  • Sacrifice and hard work
  • Patience and time – it doesn’t happen over night

It’s up to you whether or not you’re willing to do what’s necessary. I can’t change you and nobody else will either. I do my best to lead by example and teach people the proper way of handling finances. That’s why I started WorkSaveLive…that’s why I share our story…that’s why I continue to coach people.

You can have all of the knowledge in the world; it’s up to you to apply it.

4 Tangible Steps Toward Change

If you’ve taken the time to write out your first budget, and have properly included the non-monthly expenses, then you may have come to the reality that you don’t have as much money left as you originally hoped.

I would say that 9 out of 10 people I coach have their disposable income (the money left after all bills and expenses are covered) drop drastically after they walk out of our first meeting. Sometimes the budgets are negative and other times things are just extremely tight.

Regardless, there are only a few tangible things that ANY PERSON can do to change that.

As I just mentioned, there is no 1-800 number. There is no “easy” button.

It’s all about hard work, sacrifice, and discipline. Sorry to rain on the parade.


FACT: If you keep your expenses the same but raise your income, you will have more money at the end of the month.

I think it’s important for everybody to realize there are two parts to this option: (1) short-term fixes and (2) long-term solutions.

Short-Term Fixes

When I refer to short-term fixes I think in terms of working a lot of overtime and getting a part-time job. This may help you make ends-meet, but it may just help you accelerate paying down debt, building savings, or accomplishing a random goal.

When I first got started on my journey 5 years ago, I worked 7 days a week for nearly a year. I worked full-time making $30,000/year, but I also got a part-time job working at a gas station on the weekend.

Sure, it was difficult and exhausting. Heck, I was even embarrassed that somebody I knew would walk in and see me. I lost time hanging out with friends and my girlfriend at the time (now my wife)…but that sacrifice led to a tangible change in my budget which enabled me to progress quickly towards my goals.

Last year we had a string of medical bills to take care of and we’ve been saving up to pay cash for a car…well, we understand that to tangibly help with those expenses we could work more. So, my wife got a part-time job and works as much overtime that becomes available to her.

I realize that some people may not be able to get part-time jobs, and this option may not be possible for some people. However, I’d encourage you to think outside of the box and get creative.

There are hundreds of ways to increase income while not physically spending a lot of time away from home; there are jobs where you can work from home (that aren’t scams). There are things like Mary Kay, Scentsy, and if you’re crafty you can even start a shop on Etsy.

The day before I wrote this post, I got my hair cut by a lady that was on the Dave Ramsey plan. She informed me they have paid off $400,000 in almost 4 years. She also told me they were going to be DEBT FREE by November (house included).

It wasn’t that they made a lot of money at their normal jobs…they just got creative and worked like crazy people. She shared that she buys inexpensive jeans and then sews rinestones and designs on the jean pockets, then she sells them on Ebay. While only living off of their husband’s income, they’ve coupled this idea along with a couple of other ‘part-time’ jobs they do from home, and have quickly been able to pay off massive amounts of debt.

The options are limitless…the question is what excuse you’ll find to limit yourself. I realize I sound like a jerk there…I said it for affect. Most people make excuses, but I realize there are some that have valid reasons as to why they can’t pursue any options of earning extra short-term income.

If you’re looking for ideas on part-time jobs, here is a good article at Christian Personal Finance that discussed 7 Part-Time Jobs That Anyone Can Start.

Long-Term Solutions

One of the hardest situations to coach somebody through is one where the person/family has an extremely low income. One of the obvious solutions is to generate income (as a short-term fix), but more importantly (if you find yourself in this situation) you must develop a long-term solution by finding a higher paying full-time job down the road.

I realize that is easier said-than-done, but it is a problem you must recognize and do something about.

I’d recommend sitting down deciding where you want to be 5 years from today. Then, develop a plan on how you’re going to get there.

When I was making a relatively low income, I sat down and created a plan on how I could move up within my industry. After I left college (notice I didn’t say “graduate”) I worked as a voice/data technician for over a year. During that time I focused on learning everything about the products I was installing, while also gaining valuable field-installation knowledge that many of the sales people didn’t have.

After a year of gaining knowledge and experience, I found an inside-sales job at a local distributor (within the same industry). After being there for 6-months, I had gained further knowledge on a variety of products, built some relationships, and found an opportunity in outside sales.

Over the course of 2 years I went from making $13/hour as a technician to $35/hour as a salesman.

Recently, my wife told me a great story about a janitor she had gotten to know at her work. The man, in his early 40s, had been using the tuition assistance program that their employer provided to get a degree as a Surgical Technologist. Of course he had to go to school part-time (while working a full-time job), but he was eventually able to graduate and my wife recently saw him walking around the hospital in his lab coat! I will point out that he sole intention wasn’t to get a higher paying job. He wanted to apply himself more and use the gifts that God had given him. While his reasoning is far better than simply wanting to increase income, this is still a great example of how to take tangible steps to change your long-term income.

Maybe you can’t further your education or get a degree by going back to school (for whatever reason). If that’s the case, then you can do as I did and become a reader.

It’s said that you’ll be the same person in five years as you are today except the people you meet and the books you read. Pick up a book and educate yourself.

The options to advance your knowledge and apply yourself are limitless. The question is do you want to put forth the effort, energy, and time commitment that will be necessary to propel yourself to greater possibilities and opportunities?

Ways to Increase Disposable Income


Fact: If your income remains the same but you spend less, you’ll have more money left at the end of the month.

If a person’s budget is tight, this is generally the first option I jump to.

Decreasing spending is by far the easiest for people because it doesn’t really require a sacrifice of time. It’s simply involves learning to adjust your lifestyle and spending habits.

If you’ve followed this series, and find that your budget is negative, the first thing you should ask yourself is ‘what areas can I cut back on or eliminate completely?’

I detailed many of the lifestyle sacrifices we made to handle the $70,000 pay cut that I took. If you’re trying to figure out what to cut back on, you may want to check out that post.

Common places I see that people can cut back on are: eating out (for lunches especially), groceries, clothing items, cable television, cell phone plans, entertainment, and children’s expenses (private school tuition, toys, activities – sports/dance especially, music lessons. Christmas gifts is also a major weakness for parents).

Recent statistic: 66% of working Americans eat lunch out on a daily basis as opposed to bringing their lunch.
I’ve run into dozens of situations where families aren’t paying their credit cards bills (or parts of their 4-walls), but they’re eating out multiple times a week, and/or have cable and ridiculously priced cell phone packages.

If you can’t pay your bills, then you shouldn’t eat out…ever. You probably shouldn’t have cable either or a cell phone with internet on it.

Option 3: SELL “STUFF” (with payments attached to it)

Anybody that has followed the Dave Ramsey plan will talk about having garage sales or something of that nature. While, I encourage people to look for these type of cash-generating opportunities, there are only so many things you can sell.

A garage sale may help you with building an emergency fund or paying off a small debt, however it is not really a means to a long-term solution.

What I’m talking about in this option is selling things with payments attached to them. Things such as houses, cars, boats, RVs, timeshares, and ATVs.

This option is typically the hardest thing for people to do. For some reason we’re extremely tied (emotionally) to our material possessions.

I can understand the house thing, but the cars I really don’t get. A car no longer represents a means of transportation – the notion of having something that gets you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ is long gone. For many people a car now displays what you’ve accomplished, and there is no doubt that our society views cars and other material possessions as status symbols.

However, from my coaching experience I can tell you that if you have a car payment you’re far less likely to succeed financially than somebody that doesn’t.

Furthermore, you’re going to have a hard time making your monthly budget positive, you’re going to hinder your ability to save for retirement, and you won’t accomplish your goals as quickly as the people that don’t have car payments.

I’m confident that my wife and I would struggle emensly if we had a monthly car payment (and we’d certainly struggle if we had two).

I don’t want to quickly dismiss the idea of the potential need to sell your house as well. I’ve had to make that recommendation to people and it is never easy.

However, if your mortgage or rent payment is more than 35% of your monthly take-home pay, then finding a new “home” should be something you consider. Now, if you’re willing to increase your income to lessen the percentage that your mortgage represents, then that is a viable solution…as long as the additional income is a long-term thing and not simply a short-term fix.

Option #4: PAY OFF DEBT

Paying off debt isn’t going to help you cover your 4-walls; so if your 4-Walls section of your budget is negative (or extremely tight) then you must look to the three options previously mentioned.

However, if you can cover your 4-walls, and your primary struggle is paying your monthly minimum debt payments, then your long-term solution may simply be to get rid of your debt.

Again, even if this is the case, you may have to do a combination of options 1, 2, and/or 3 to help you knock out the debt.

The good news (if this is where you find yourself) is that you may only have to sacrifice for a short period of time until you get your debt knocked out. I will also state that ‘a short period of time’ is relative. Holly and I have been working through our debt for nearly 5 years now. I wouldn’t be foolish enough to say that 5 years is a short period of time, however when I take a step back and realize that I potentially have another 60 years to live, 5 years simply isn’t that long to make sacrifices.

Wrapping Up

As a financial coach, there is nothing harder than coaching people through a negative budget. Some of us have bought the lie that there is an easy way out, however many understand that sacrifice is real and know that it is the only way to get out of their current predicament.

The great thing is that you have a choice in deciding which path you take.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” ― Lewis Carroll
Know where your going and why…then take the path that’s proven to lead towards tangible change: increase income, decrease spending, sell “stuff” that has payments, and/or pay down debt.

Picture by kilonad.

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About the Author

By , on Feb 2, 2012
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of WorkSaveLive.com.

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